Robins’ NHL debut at age 32 is a swinging success

October 9, 2014 Posted by admin

BOSTON — When it was all said and done, it was a pretty good day at the office for Bobby Robins, playing in his first NHL game as a 32-year-old rookie.

The longtime AHL enforcer dropped the gloves for his first NHL fight in Wednesday night’s 2-1 season-opening win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and also showed more than enough of the three-zone viability that Claude Julien demands from his players.

Julien knows it’s a feel-good story for the journeyman winger, finally making it to the NHL after long stints in the ECHL and AHL along with Northern Ireland and Austria. But he also knows it’s about Robins being an asset on a new energy line that fared pretty well in its first time out. Both Robins and rookie Craig Cunningham were effective playing alongside Daniel Paille, and gave the Bruins a little grit, a little toughness, a little attitude and a great deal of energy.

“I think right now he’s looking after himself,” said Julien of Robins. “He wants to stay here and he’s playing hard. That’s what you saw from him. He’s a great example for guys that have been toying around in the minors for a long time. To know that there’s still some hope at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not over just because you’re 30 years old.

“If you were him, wouldn’t you be happy right now? It’s a great feeling. [It was his] first regular-season NHL game, legit NHL game. You participate in it and you do your job and you do it well and come out of there with a win. So it’s a good start for him. As a coach, you love seeing those kinds of success stories happen in front of your eyes.”

Robins provided the energy the Black and Gold were actively seeking, and the physical portion of the evening’s program was impressive as well.

Robins finished with a team-high five hits in 6:58 of ice time and, more importantly, passed the first toughness test from one of the league’s trouble-makers.

Zac Rinaldo was throwing heavy, legal checks on Bruins players in the first half of the game, and took runs at everybody from Dennis Seidenberg to Dougie Hamilton. Then Robins took matters into his hands as part of his responsibility to protect his teammates.

Robins and Cunningham lined up and stapled Rinaldo to the side boards at the same time right in front of the Philadelphia bench in the second period, and that quieted the Flyers attacker for the rest of the game. The collision forced a scrap between Robins and Luke Schenn, who stepping up for Rinaldo, and by that point Robins had performed his job to near perfection.

“I was wondering when that would happen,” Robins said. “I figured if I played hard enough, fights usually happen. So I was wondering if it would happen in the first game. Luckily, it turned out to be a good one.

“I just saw a good opportunity to get a good run at Rinaldo there, and he’s known to be a pretty big hitter. [He] took a few runs at our guys, so I was hoping to get a good bump on him. One of his teammates came in and stuck up for him.”

It looked like Robins and Schenn were still yapping at each other in the penalty box after the scrap, but it turned out to be exactly what makes hockey players such a unique breed.

“[Schenn] was asking if it was my first NHL game,” said Robins. “So, I said yeah. He just said, ‘Good fight’, the normal stuff guys say after a fight.”

Now that some of the important firsts are out of the way, Robins just wants to play at a high volume for every single one of his shifts and bring out the best in his teammates through the tireless example of his sheer force of will. He reached the pinnacle on Wednesday, cracking the opening-night roster and then performing ably with Cunningham and Paille, So Robins was appropriately grateful to anybody and everybody that helped him out along the long road to the Bruins.

“It was awesome,” he said. “Just after nine years to have that happen was a dream come true. [It’s special] to play here at the Garden after playing four years at UMass Lowell and always watching the Bruins for the past bunch of years. It was a very special feeling; I’ll never forget it.

“I definitely want to keep going. I don’t want to just play one game; I want to keep stringing together games, and stringing together good games, and make that a season, make that two seasons, and make that a career and keep going. So, I’ve definitely got the itch now. I want to stay in this league.”

Robins had his wife and young daughter Liberty in the stands at the Garden watching him develop that itch on Wednesday night, and its looking like his parents will make the trek to Detroit to potentially watch their son do it all again Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Bobby Robins waited a long time for that first sniff of the NHL action. On Wednesday, he played like a guy that doesn’t want to go anywhere for a while.

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